A colleague once told me that I could not, would not, should not travel in China without being part of a guided tour group. I wasn’t sure if this was correct or not, but he had been there, after all, so I was inclined to semi-believe him.
Well, I am happy to say that I laugh in the face of this advice now, as I have travelled in many countries where I cannot read the “A, B, C”, let alone speak.
I didn’t have any prior knowledge of Vietnamese food, so was intrigued to try it. One of my favourite meals in Vietnam was a tiny family-run restaurant consisting of 1 table, where we enjoyed Banh Khoai (a rice-flour omelette containing prawns, pork and beansprouts, served with a mint salad and spicy satay sauce). It was delicious and inexpensive.
Street food is the mainstay of Vietnamese food. It is generally eaten on tiny stools by the side of the road. My boyfriend is over 6 foot and I’m not tiny, so we felt faintly ridiculous sitting on them with our knees up around our ears. Continue reading →
We went to Hoi An mainly because Top Gear went there and the lantern festival (aka. the Full Moon Festival) looked beautiful. We planned our whole trip around the lantern festival – which was difficult as it is arranged by the lunar calendar (the 14th day of the lunar calendar), and we couldn’t find an actual date on the internet. We did various calculations based on when the full moon was (as you do…!), and decided on a date to aim for. As it happened, we got the date wrong, but luckily as we were staying a few days, it fell within our stay. So when we arrived the town was decked out in lanterns, ready for lantern celebrations! I’m still confused about the lunar calendar, and frankly am thankful that someone invented clocks / time. It might have taken me years to learn to tell the time as a kid, struggling with a giant plastic clock, but I’m finally reaping the rewards! 😉
We found a restaurant overlooking the river and sat there, enjoying dinner and people-watching as day turned to dusk and the town lit up with lanterns. It would have been romantic, if it weren’t for the lizard on the ceiling above my head. Continue reading →
When I talk about My Son, I mean some ruins in Vietnam, not my child. This is because I don’t have any offspring, not that I’m really neglectful. To distinguish the two there is a pronunciation difference, but to the life of me I can’t remember it.
My Son is an old ruin of Indiana-Jones-esque proportions where Cham Kings were buried in the 4th century. In other words, it’s pretty old. Apparently the Viet Cong were based here during the Vietnam War, so many of the buildings are highly damaged from bombing by American B52 bombers. Continue reading →
Hoi An was perfect and quaint, like a chocolate-box town. As a result it is touristy, clean, and safe. Well, apart from the time a 3 year old kid took it upon himself to challenge my boyfriend to a fight. We were walking home in the evening when we were confronted with this toddler, stood in the middle of the path in a karate pose, a fierce look of determination in his eyes. As we walked past he started kicking and karate-chopping at my BF. He barely came up to my BF’s knee-caps so we didn’t feel the need to report it to the police 😉 It was so cute and I had to suppress giggles. My poor BF – an old lady hit him in Hanoi, he was slapped by girls on a bike in Hue, and now this…!
Hoi An is famous for its tailoring – you can get a tailored suit made to your requirements overnight. There was every fabric you could imagine, made in any style you want. Continue reading →
Danang is a small town in mid-Vietnam. It is somewhat off the beaten track, and we did not see another tourist there. We spent a pleasant day and night there, looking around the markets.
There was a very pleasant boardwalk along the river, so we had a relaxing stroll, watching the boats sail by. There were also several sculptures. And by several, I don’t mean 3 or 4. I mean about 10 billion. I think they are made locally, so I assume they wanted to showcase their talents, in sculpture form.
The roads in Hue were much wider, less busy, and more ordered than Hanoi. We therefore felt brave enough to rent bikes and cycle around. This was cheap and the bikes were delivered to the hotel within minutes – talk about good service! We soon found that cycling there was really fun!
It was nerve wracking when I went across my first big crossroads, as there were people turning at the junction, so going across my path. However when I successfully sailed across the crossroads, it was so exhilarating and I felt like whooping with joy! Continue reading →
After our adventures in Ha Long Bay, we got the bus to Hong Gai, which is on the other side of Ha Long Bay to Bai Chay. Bai Chay is very touristy and expensive, but Hong Gai could not be more different – not a tourist in sight, much poorer, but still stunningly beautiful.
There was also a floating village there, but it was much more modest. The floating village in Ha Long Bay was neatly painted and probably enriched by the proceeds of tourism – (photos in my previous blog). The floating village in Hong Gai was less aesthetically pleasing, with tarpaulin roofs, but probably more real! Continue reading →
Ha Long Bay was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Azure seas, floating islands and lush vegetation. It was the most Avatar-like landscape I have seen (that’s a geographical term – “Avatar-like”!!). It was just stunning.
We cruised through these islands, until we reached a floating village. The people live in the bay on floating huts on rafts and I understand that some have never been to shore! Continue reading →
If I had to sum up Hanoi in 3 words it would be (1) humid, (2) motorbikes, (3) bustling. Before I went, a colleague told me about her trip to Hanoi– she met two British ladies there who were too scared to leave the hotel because of all the motorbikes everywhere! My colleague ended up taking them round with her, or they’d have stayed in the hotel all week! I thought this was ridiculous – surely even if you’re not brave enough to cross a road, you’d be able to walk around the block on the pavement? Now, I still think it’s ridiculous, but less so. I do kinda understand where they were coming from. The motorbikes are everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. They are coming at you from all directions, often on the wrong side of the road, sometimes on the pavement, and normally packed with people. It is not for the feint-hearted!
We learnt a few tricks:-
To cross the road, don’t bother stopping on the kerb, looking around for traffic, and when it is clear, crossing. You’ll be there forever! Continue reading →